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The Actor’s Nightmare review at Park Theatre, London – ‘flat and formless’

Stefan Menaul and Meaghan Martin in The Actor's Nightmare at Park Theatre, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Jumbling together a selection of micro-plays from Tony award-winning writer Christopher Durang, The Actor’s Nightmare is as shallow and disordered as any dream. Putatively discussing show business, the purpose of art and the performer’s role as medium between muse and audience, it unfolds as a series of light comic skits revolving around stock characters and familiar theatrical canon.

Blanche DuBois frets while Medea plots, and a writer with delusions of artistic purity turns down work from a crass Hollywood agent.

The cast commits to the thematic kaleidoscope, each rising to occasional opportunities for showboating. Kate Sumpter opens the show with a monologue about the etymology of various theatrical terms, telling the story vividly even as the material wears thin. Adrian Richards shows off a solid range, switching seamlessly between a sulky Stanley Kowalski and a prim, poised Horatio, throwing in a convincingly motormouthed Glengarry Glen Ross pastiche on the way.

Meaghan Martin – best known for film work, with roles in Camp Rock and Mean Girls 2 – makes a strong stage debut here, nailing an underwritten part as a stand-up comic desperate for approval, wincing anxiously every time her laugh track plays.

Jai Morjaria evokes a bewildering, dreamlike mood with a bold lighting design, splitting up scenes with washes of nocturnal blue or pulsing magenta. Director Lydia Parker throws in plenty of busy movement and nonverbal gags to make the most of the humour but in the end, it never really comes together, or comes to a point.

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Offbeat showcase of comic sketches that feels flat and formless despite committed performances